Reporting on anti-abortion rights march, Wash. Post omitted contrary views, pro-Roe polling, march leader's reference to "feminist abortionists" as war criminals

››› ››› ROB MORLINO

A Washington Post article on the 33rd March for Life protest at the Supreme Court quoted several participants and organizers, reporting that they "see ... a societal tide turning against" Roe v. Wade. Not one abortion rights supporter was quoted in the article, nor did it note that public opinion polls continue to show that a majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe.

In a January 24 Washington Post article, staff writer Michelle Boorstein interviewed participants in the previous day's 33rd March for Life protest at the Supreme Court, reporting that the protesters "see ... a societal tide turning against" Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. Not once in the Post's report were any abortion rights supporters quoted, nor did the article note that public opinion polls continue to show that a majority of Americans oppose overturning Roe. In contrast, a January 24 New York Times article quoted the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, who cited recent polling showing strong support for Roe. The march is an annual anti-abortion event that takes place on the anniversary of the court's decision.

Unlike the Post, the Times article also quoted the remarks of Nellie Gray, president of the March for Life organization. The Times noted Gray's "fiery tones" during her speech, when she spoke of the "evil" being perpetuated by "feminist abortionists," predicting that they would eventually face their own version of the Nuremberg trials, in which Nazi war criminals were prosecuted:

Speaking to the crowd in fiery tones, Ms. Gray predicted that the United States would hold the equivalent of Nuremburg [sic] trials for "feminist abortionists," calling support for a woman's right to choose "crimes against humanity."

"Roe v. Wade has brutalized our country," she said. "The feminist abortionists, look at the evil they are doing. From that will come an accountability." Her words were met with strong applause, and more than a few supporters held high signs that compared abortions in the United States to "Hitler's Holocaust."

In contrast, the Post report quoted several March for Life participants and organizers, but it did not reference Gray's invocation of Nuremberg. Boorstein described the mood of the event as "closer to a party than a political protest" and reported that "the soundtrack of the day was the laughter of young people." Several of those quoted mentioned the likely confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Samuel A. Alito Jr., who participants expected would add a vote in favor of reversal.

While the Times story, by Washington correspondent Michael Janofsky, quoted participants with similar opinions, it also quoted NARAL Pro-Choice America president Nancy Keenan, who noted that recent polls said 65 percent of Americans are against Roe being overturned.

Several recent polls support Keenan's observation.

A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released on the day of the March for Life protest found that 66 percent of Americans believe that Roe v. Wade should stand, while 25 percent said it should be overturned. An earlier CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, released January 9, found that 56 percent of respondents felt that the Senate should not vote to confirm Alito if his confirmation hearings determined he would vote to overturn Roe once on the court.

And a December 19 ABC News/Washington Post poll found that 57 percent of respondents said that abortion should remain legal, with 40 percent of the total number of people surveyed saying it should be legal in most cases, and 17 percent saying it should be legal in all cases. Twenty-seven percent said it should be illegal in most cases, while 13 percent said it should be illegal in all cases; 3 percent said they were not sure.

From the January 24 Washington Post article, headlined "Protesters See Mood Shift Against 'Roe' ":

Tens of thousands of abortion opponents held an upbeat rally on the cold, gray streets of downtown Washington yesterday and described what they see as a societal tide turning against the 33-year-old Roe v. Wade court decision that legalized the procedure.

Demonstrators at the annual March for Life said their movement has been buoyed by two recent Supreme Court nominees -- one of them confirmed -- who appear open to reconsidering the 1973 decision. They talked optimistically about how technological advances are producing clearer sonograms, which could make it harder to argue that a fetus is not a person.

[...]

"This is the beginning of the end. We'll look back at some point soon and won't believe that people were ever killing babies like it was nothing," said Ryan McAlpin, 19, who came from Chicago with a group of friends.

The march is held each year to protest the Supreme Court's Jan. 22, 1973, decision that most laws against abortion violate a constitutional right to privacy. The first protest was in 1974 in Washington.

[...]

Charmaine Yoest, a vice president at the Family Research Council, told a morning gathering of 40 antiabortion bloggers that the demise of Roe would mean a battle within each state over whether abortion should be legal -- a more localized, grass-roots fight.

"Consensus is building that we are moving into a post-Roe future, and we need to be ready," she said.

The pendulum swing, she said, is reflected in the confirmation of Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and the nomination of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. to the Supreme Court. Neither man is a guaranteed antiabortion vote in any court case, Yoest noted, and even if both men vote to overturn Roe, the balance on the court is still 5 to 4 in favor of the ruling.

But society is clearly more open to the idea that Roe was a bad ruling on constitutional grounds, Yoest said, and is generally becoming more concerned about ethical ramifications in such areas as stem cell research and euthanasia.

"You're seeing an increasing feeling that Roe was poorly decided. And Alito's confirmation will be a watershed moment in that direction," she said.

[...]

President Bush addressed the event by telephone from Kansas, where he traveled yesterday for a speech on terrorism. In four minutes of remarks that largely followed the language he has used in past calls to the march, Bush vowed to continue fighting for what he calls a "culture of life" and the principle that every life has value.

"These principles call us to defend the sick and dying, persons with disabilities and birth defects, all who are weak and vulnerable, especially unborn children," he said. Although he rarely discusses abortion in detail before general audiences, Bush recited his record on the issue for the activists, boasting that one of his first acts as president was to cut off taxpayer money to programs that promote abortion overseas and hailing other actions such as a ban on the procedure opponents call "partial birth" abortion. He also urged the Senate to pass legislation approved by the House aimed at preventing people from taking minors across state lines to avoid parental notification laws.

Few counter-demonstrators were visible at yesterday's event, although a small group was gathered around a light pole across the street from the Supreme Court. As they yelled, "My body, my choice," through a bullhorn, they were drowned out by dozens of young abortion opponents shouting, "Boo!" On the other side of the wide sidewalk in front of the court building, rows of teenagers stood in a silent protest, a single strip of red tape across their mouths with the word "life" written in black.

From the January 24 New York Times article, headlined "At March on the Mall, Abortion Foes Rally Behind a New Theme: Alito":

Nellie Gray, the president of March for Life, the group that organized the rally, said reversing Roe was this year's theme. Speaking to the crowd in fiery tones, Ms. Gray predicted that the United States would hold the equivalent of Nuremburg trials for "feminist abortionists," calling support for a woman's right to choose "crimes against humanity."

"Roe v. Wade has brutalized our country," she said. "The feminist abortionists, look at the evil they are doing. From that will come an accountability." Her words were met with strong applause, and more than a few supporters held high signs that compared abortions in the United States to "Hitler's Holocaust."

Nancy Keenan, president of Naral Pro-Choice America, said the Nellie Grays of the country had it wrong. In a telephone interview, Ms. Keenan said that Roe represented fundamental values that Americans held dear, including personal responsibility and privacy. Referring to recent polls, she said 65 percent of Americans did not want Roe overturned.

Nonetheless, Roe's opponents "smell a victory," she said, adding: "It's a perfect storm for them. They have an antichoice president and an antichoice Congress. Now they want an antichoice Supreme Court."

Posted In
Health Care, Reproductive Rights
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The Washington Post
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